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Alberto Medrano teaching

Richmond agency offers training and hope to jobseekers

on September 6, 2010

In the midst of a recession that has hit Richmond hard, jobseekers say that a local agency provides an island of opportunity.

According to California’s Employment Development Department (EDD), Richmond’s unemployment rate reached 18.5 percent in July, the latest month for which EDD has published statistics.

To help those looking for work, RichmondWORKS, an employment and training center, holds dozens of workshops and job orientations throughout the year. A week before Labor Day, eight Spanish-speaking residents listened attentively as an instructor walked them through the process of searching for employment in Richmond.

“Buscar y vas a encontrar,” said Alberto Medrano, career assistant for RichmondWORKS. Loosely translated, the statement means “Look and you will find.” RichmondWORKS staff members encourage residents to take an active role in preparing and searching for jobs.

Richmond resident Belia Zavala, 19, has been coming to the center off and on for the past two years. A high school dropout, she is working toward her GED. RichmondWORKS, she says, helped her feel more optimistic about her future. “This is a place with caring people,” she said. “They’ll do everything they can and probably more to help.”

Belia Zavala

Belia Zavala says RichmondWORKS helped her "see better days."

The process begins with an orientation in which clients find out what is available to them. They are each given a ‘smart card,’ which allows them access to computers for individual resume work, research or testing. Staff members match clients with career counselors who guide them through the process of job hunting, preparing for interviews and ultimately finding work.
Lately, the agency has tailored some of its efforts to the needs of Richmond’s growing Hispanic population, said Rosemary Viramontes, project coordinator.

“We started doing Spanish orientation a couple of years ago because we had more of a demand,” Viramontes said.

But according to one college-aged Latina resident who attended the orientation on behalf of her parents, some Hispanic residents are afraid to visit the center because they are undocumented. Others stay away because they don’t speak English, she said. Staff members, though, speak five languages, including Spanish, Hindi, Lao, Swedish and French, Medrano said.

The success of the program? Well, that depends. “It’s really up to the individual,” Viramontes said.

The center serves 145 clients a day, said Adolfo Paredes, career center lead.  Eighty percent of them are unemployed and more than two-thirds are Hispanic and African-American. Within the past three weeks, Paredes added, 42 of the center’s clients have found employment.

RichmondWORKS is part of an umbrella organization known as EASTBAY Works, a network of 13 one-stop business and career centers located throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The agency receives funding from the Department of Labor. A grant from the FBI, tied to a drop in the local crime rate, helped buy computers and teaching materials, staff said.

Need a job? Here’s help:
What: RichmondWORKS One-Stop Career Center
Where: 330 25th Street
Richmond, CA 94804
Phone: 510-307-8014
Fax: 510-307-8072
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 9:00 a.m. – 3:45 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. – 2:15 p.m.

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